John Moses couldn’t have chosen a worse day, or a worse way to die, if he’d planned it for a lifetime. This first sentence of THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE by Jenny Wingfield has set the tone for this unputdownable new novel.
I finished this page-turner a couple of days ago. I was turning pages so quickly as the novel turned into the home stretch that I could hardly keep up with my own self.
This unequivocal southern tale has made it onto my best of 2011 list. This story is stuffed with unforgettable characters and sweet revenge.
The Moses family gets together every summer at the beginning of June. This year is no exception. Willadee Lake, the only daughter of John and Calla Moses, has come to Arkansas from Louisiana with her husband Samuel and their three children. You already know from that audacious first sentence that John Moses is going to die pretty darn quick. What you don’t yet know are the circumstances.
Wingfield has created a backwoods southern family complete with deep-set problems that fester and ooze until they just have to explode. The family members themselves are total characters. But add the devastatingly evil neighbor, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Swan Lake is Samuel and Willadee’s eleven year-old precocious daughter. Think Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Swan is in heaven at the thought of having an entire summer in the country not having to wear skirts. A tomboy at heart, she envisions days full of playing with her brothers in the outdoors. You can imagine the trouble brewing. Well, maybe not.
Uncle Toy has plenty of his own problems. He shot and killed a man to “save” the honor of his wife years ago. But was it her honor that was saved? Toy never had any kids, but he loves his sister Willadee’s kids as though they were his own. They find him to be a fierce advocate for them.
Blade is the eight year-old neighbor boy who wanders into the Moses home in the deep part of the night. He is starved not only for food, but for love. And he and Swan become fast friends. His daddy is the evil neighbor next door.
The Moses family runs a grocery in the front of their residence. In the back, there reads a sign that says NEVER CLOSES. This back business opens when the grocery closes in the early evening. It’s a bar and hang out for wastrels. They need the money. So, after John Moses passes, one of the family has to take over running that show. You can only imagine how that will go over with Sam Lake. Have I mentioned he’s a pastor?
I love animals. I hate hearing of any animal being abused. It is part of the evil in this story. But it is done in a very careful way. Wingfield knows her field. And doesn’t kill us with unnecessary scenes of abuse. But she gets her point across perfectly.
There have been some good books this summer, more to come this fall. But this one is definitely one of my favorites. I can not recommend it highly enough!